The Aesthetics and Pedagogy of Charles Tournemire:

Chant and Improvisation in the Liturgy

October 21-23, 2012


The Church Music Association of America

in collaboration with

Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

and the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Guild of Organists


The Church Music Association of America will hold a conference exploring the legacy of Charles Tournemire as an improviser and teacher of improvisation on October 21-23, 2012 on the campus of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and at neighboring Pittsburgh churches.  The conference seeks to explore the aesthetic, liturgical, theoretical, and technical principles of Tournemire’s improvisations and teachings on improvisation, the use of Gregorian chant in organ improvisation, the role of organ improvisations in the Catholic liturgy, and pedagogical approaches to teaching organ improvisation. 

The conference will include liturgies, opportunities for the study of improvisation at the organ, discussion groups, and recital programs and papers relating to the conference theme.  Papers presented will be considered for publication in a collection of essays following the conference. 

The conference committee welcomes proposals for papers and recital programs. 

The deadline for proposals is June 1st, 2012.  Notification of acceptance will be given by June 22nd, 2012.

Proposals must be submitted via email to Jennifer Donelson at:

Please note that the conference begins on the evening of Sunday, October 21st and submissions will be scheduled only on Monday and Tuesday, October 22nd and 23rd

For paper proposals (30 minutes plus 10 minutes for questions), please send an e-mail including:

1.      Title and Abstract (250 word maximum)

2.      Your name and affiliation

3.      Your phone number and email address

4.      Bio (250 word maximum)

For recital proposals (25 or 50 minutes in length), please send an e-mail including:

1.      Selections to be included on the program (including title, composer, and length of each selection.)  Programs incorporating improvisations must include a description of the improvisation to be played (theme[s] used, length, and, if applicable, a stylistic description.)

2.      A 100 word abstract (for lecture recitals only)

3.      Your name and affiliation, as well as the name and affiliation of each additional performer if applicable

4.      Your phone number and email address

5.      Your bio (250 word maximum)

6.      A brief bio of each performer/ensemble included in the recital program (100 word maximum)

7.      One or two recordings in mp3 format which demonstrate a recent performance.  The selections need not necessarily be recordings of the pieces proposed for the conference recital program, but they should be representative of the style of the pieces submitted for consideration (e.g. a proposal including an improvisation should include a recording of an improvisation.)  File size limit: 10 MB.

8.      Performance space requirements (instrumentation, configuration, need for music stands and chairs, etc.)

Paper topics arising from the theme include, but are not limited to:

1.      Aesthetic, liturgical, theoretical, and technical principles employed in Tournemire’s improvisations and teachings on improvisation

2.      Tournemire’s use and adaptation of Gregorian chant

3.      The works and styles of other composers that influenced Tournemire’s improvisational style

4.      The influence of Tournemire’s style and/or use of Gregorian chant on other improvisers/composers

5.      Explorations of Tournemire’s pedagogical treatises

6.      French liturgical praxis and organ-building principles that shaped Tournemire’s improvisational style and pedagogy

7.      The influence of the work of the Benedictine Monastery at Solesmes on Tournemire’s improvisations and those of other composers/improvisers from the late nineteenth century to today

8.      The influence of Tra le Sollecitudini, other early twentieth century documents, and liturgical trends on the work of Tournemire, his contemporaries, or more recent organists

9.      The relationship between L’Orgue Mystique and Tournemire’s organ improvisations

10.  The principles of chant-based improvisations in the Catholic liturgy as modeled in the work of Tournemire, and the future of chant-inspired improvisations in the Catholic liturgy

11.  The role of the organ improvisation in the Catholic liturgy

12.  Pedagogical principles and traditions of teaching organ improvisation

13.  The place of Charles Tournemire in the French symphonic and improvisational traditions

14.  The nature and qualities of sacred music in the Catholic liturgy as exhibited in Tournemire’s improvisations

Recital programs arising from the theme include, but are not limited to:

1.      Performances of transcriptions of improvisations, especially those of Tournemire

2.      Organ improvisations on Gregorian chant or related to the French symphonic tradition

3.      New compositions based on or inspired by Gregorian chant for use in the Catholic liturgy

4.      Lecture recitals

5.      Pedagogical demonstrations of current pedagogical traditions and approaches, or the incorporation of examples from relevant improvisation treatises

6.      Any combination of the above, or incorporating other complementary compositions and styles

Papers will be 30 minutes in length followed with a 10 minute period for questions. 

Recital programs may be either 25 or 50 minutes in length.  Performances will take place at the Church of the Epiphany, Heinz Chapel, or Calvary Episcopal church.  If submitting a recital program for compositions other than those for organ, recitalists must provide all performing personnel (e.g. choir, string ensemble, etc.)  No piano, musical instruments (other than organ), or sound amplification will be available for the recitals, except for a microphone for the presenter speaking during the recital if requested.  Submissions may include a venue request, but there is no guarantee that the request will be accommodated.

The official language of the conference is English.

Presenters must register for the conference ($100) and will be responsible for their own expenses.

Questions regarding the conference may be directed to Jennifer Donelson via email or phone:

          (954) 262-7610

The conference website is available at:, with lodging, travel, and meal information.  Registration will be available after the submission review process has been completed.